Strong Weekend

The primeval power trio adds an athletic sense of conflict to shoegaze

MUSIC: THE NEW SHOEGAZE Oh sure, I like to swoon and glide, and I stayed for all of "You Made Me Realize" when the reformed My Bloody Valentine played at the Concourse. But a million easy divers and slow Rides have stretched shoegaze out of shape, forgetting the loaming fury for déjà vu-ridden ecstasy. As with all pseudo-genres in the MySpace era, a premium is placed on affect: the shiny/skuzzy veneer that rewards your click. M83's admittedly spectacular records (Before the Dawn Heals Us, Saturdays=Youth) were early harbingers of this tendency. Like big-budget fantasies of the early shoegaze sound, their effect is at once lush and deodorized.

That may be a circumspect way of introducing Weekend, but it helps me get a handle on my initial crush on the trio's "All American"/"Youth Haunts" single (Mexican Summer). Both tracks hitch the familiar layers of ultraviolet feedback to a throbbing, post-punk core—the band approaches shoegaze as a means of attack. The songs are long, but only because they're stalking another crescendo, like the blizzard of cymbals at the close of "Youth Haunts."

The striving momentum of those two tracks made even more sense when I saw Weekend perform. Mission of Burma came to mind watching the band make Dionysian waves while remaining buttoned-up and steady. There was much unifying pounding, but at such a volume that the instruments seemed to be discordantly ripping at a beautiful cloud. When I ask bassist and singer Shaun Durkan why their forthcoming album is called Sports (Slumberland), he replies, "Because the record is about episodes of conflict and opposition." That insight extends to the album's minimalist cover art, designed by friend and fellow CCA grad Jeff Brush, and redolent of post-punk's class of '79.

Weekend plays loud enough to conjure little sonic hallucinations that compliment the band's subtle, New Order-ish melodies. "We all come from punk and hardcore backgrounds where it's really not a big deal to have a cranked half-stack," guitarist Kevin Johnson explains when I meet up with him, Durkan, and drummer Abe Pedroza one sunny afternoon. And yet, the blown-out passages always channel back to the hook that was there all along. "I think that's been an idea in our band for a long time," Johnson adds, "having stuff that sounds really abrasive on the surface but that the listener can't help but find the melody."

This careful calibration surely owes something to Weekend's long gestation. Durkan and Johnson first met as sixth graders in Novato, and though Johnson moved to Reno before a band could form, the two remained in close touch, scheming a band. They started Weekend in 2009 with drummer Taylor Valentino, who was replaced by Pedroza when he moved to Boston. Aside from the first single and a split 7-inch with Young Prisms, the band quietly logged weekend sessions toward Sports with local producer Monte Vallier, who played with Durkan's father in Half Church, one of San Francisco's early post-punk groups.

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